Archive for 13 and Up

EP338 – The Trojan Girl


By N. K. Jemisin
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in Weird Tales
All stories by N. K. Jemisin
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated 15 and up for language

The girl was perfect. Her framing, the engine at her core, the intricate web of connections holding her objects together, built-in redundancies… Meroe had never seen such efficiency. The girl’s structure was simple because she didn’t need any of the shortcuts and workarounds that most of their kind required to function. There was no bloat to her, no junk code slowing her down, no patchy sores that left her vulnerable to infection.

“She’s a thing of beauty, isn’t she?” Faster said.

Meroe returned to interface view. He glanced at Zo and saw the same suspicion lurking in her beatific expression.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Meroe said, watching Zo, speaking to Faster. “We don’t grow that way.”

“I know!” Faster was pacing, gesticulating, caught up in his own excitement. He didn’t notice Meroe’s look. “She must have evolved from something professionally-coded. Maybe even Government Standard. I didn’t think we could be born from that!”

They couldn’t. Meroe stared at the girl, not liking what he was seeing. The avatar was just too well-designed, too detailed. Her features and coloring matched that of some variety of Latina; probably Central or South American given the noticeable indigenous traits. Most of their kind created Caucasian avatars to start — a human minority who for some reason comprised the majority of images available for sampling in the Amorph. And most first avatars had bland, nondescript faces. This girl had clear features, right down to her distinctively-formed lips and chin — and hands. It had taken five versionings for Meroe to get his own hands right.

“Did you check out her feature-objects?” Faster asked, oblivious to Meroe’s unease.

“Why?”

Zo answered. “Two of them are standard add-ons — an aggressive defender and a diagnostic tool. The other two we can’t identify. Something new.” Her lips curved in a smile; she knew how he would react.

(Note: We secured only audio rights to this story, so there will be no website version.)

EP337 – Counting Cracks


By George R. Galuschak
Read by Mat Weller
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared on Strange Horizons
All stories by George R. Galuschak
All stories read by Mat Weller
Rated 15 and up for language

Counting Cracks
By George R. Galuschak

Four of us, jammed into my sister’s Ford Festiva, going to kill the monster. Sylvia drives. The Hum has left her untouched, so she’s the only one left in town who can drive. My sister licks the palm of her hand, touches it to her nose and bumps her forehead against the steering wheel. Then she does it again.

“Today would be nice, sis.” I say. I’m in the back seat with June, a twelve-year old girl clutching a teddy bear to her chest.

“I’m going as fast as I can,” she tells me. “It’s bad today.”

“The Shop-Rite has three hundred and fifty-seven ceiling tiles,” Michael tells me. He’s a little kid, nine years old, sitting up front with Sylvia. “I counted them.”

“Inpatient oranges creep handsome banisters,” June says, rolling her eyes.

“Good for you,” I say. My left leg hurts, which I guess is a good sign. My left arm feels like dead weight except for the tips of my fingers, which are tingly.

“Do you count tiles, Mr. Bruschi?” Michael asks.

“No. I counted cracks on the sidewalk. When I was a kid.”

A sparrow collides with the windshield. It bounces off and skitters to the pavement, where it thrashes. I haven’t seen a living bird in days. It must have flown into the Hum.

“Swill,” June says, pointing at the bird. “Maraschino cherries. Skittles. Cocktail weenies.”

“All right. I’m ready.” Sylvia twists the key, and the car starts. We back out of the driveway.

“The streets are so empty,” she says.

“That’s because everyone is dead,” Michael tells her. “They listened to the Hum and went into their houses and pulled the covers over their heads and died. I had a hamster that died, once. It got real old, so it made a little nest, and then it laid down in it and died.”

“We’re not dead,” I say.

“Not yet,” Michael corrects me. “Give it time.” (Continue Reading…)

EP336: The Speed of Time


By Jay Lake
Read by Josh Roseman
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared on Tor.com
All stories by Jay Lake
All stories read by Josh Roseman
Rated 13 and up for content

The Speed of Time
by Jay Lake

“Light goes by at the speed of time,” Marlys once told me.

That was a joke, of course. Light can be slowed to a standstill in a photon trap, travel on going nowhere at all forever in the blueing distance of an event horizon, or blaze through hard vacuum as fast as information itself moves through the universe. Time is relentless, the tide which measures the perturbations of the cosmos. The 160.2 GHz hum of creation counts the measure of our lives as surely as any heartbeat.

There is no t in e=mc2.

I’d argued with her then, missing her point back when understanding her might have mattered. Now, well, nothing much at all mattered. Time has caught up with us all. (Continue Reading…)

EP335: The Water Man


By Ursula Pflug
Read by Christiana Ellis
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in Anthology Series: Tesseracts # 3, 1991
All stories by Ursula Pflug
All stories read by Christiana Ellis
Rated 13 and up for language

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The Water Man
by Ursula Pflug

The water man came today. I waited all morning, and then all afternoon, painting plastic soldiers to pass the time. Red paint too in the sky when he finally showed; I turned the outside lights on for him and held the door while he carried the big bottles in. He set them all in a row just inside the storm door; there wasn’t any other place to put them. When he was done he stood catching his breath, stamping his big boots to warm his feet. Melting snow made little muddy lakes on the linoleum. I dug in my jeans for money to tip him with, knowing I wouldn’t find any. Finally I just offered him water.

We drank together. It was cool and clean and good, running down our throats in the dimness of the store. It made me feel wide and quiet, and I watched his big eyes poke around Synapses, checking us out, and while they did, mine snuck a peek at him. He was big and round, and all his layers of puffy clothes made him seem rounder still, like a black version of the Michelin man. He unzipped his parka and I could see a name, Gary, stitched in red over the pocket of his blue coverall. I still didn’t have a light on; usually I work in the dark, save the light bill for Deb. But I switched it on when he coughed and he smiled at that, like we’d shared a joke. He had a way of not looking right at you or saying much, but somehow you still knew what he was thinking. Like I knew that he liked secrets, and talking without making sounds. It was neat.

Seemed to me it was looking water–a weird thought out of nowhere–unless it came from him. He seemed to generate them; like he could stand in the middle of a room and in everyone’s minds, all around him, weird little thoughts would start cropping up–like that one. My tummy sloshing I looked too, and seemed to see through his eyes and not just mine. Through his I wasn’t sure how to take it: a big dim room haunted by dinosaurs. All the junk of this century comes to rest at Synapses; it gets piled to the ceilings and covered with dust. If it’s lucky it makes a Head; weird Heads are going to be the thing for Carnival this year, just as they were last, and Debbie’s are the best. Her finished products are grotesque, but if you call that beautiful then they are; the one she just finished dangles phone cords like Medusa’s hair, gears like jangling medals. Shelves of visors glint under the ceiling fixture; inlaid with chips and broken bits of circuitry, they hum like artifacts from some Byzantium that isn’t yet. Two faced Janus masks, their round doll eyes removed; you can wear them either way, male or female, to look in or out.

Gary was staring at them, a strange expression on his face. Like he wanted to throw up. (Continue Reading…)

EP333: Asteroid Monte


By Craig DeLancey
Read by Rajan Khanna
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in Analog
All stories by Craig DeLancey
All stories read by Rajan Khanna
Rated 15 and up for language, drug abuse

Asteroid Monte
by Craig DeLancey

“You don’t look like an omnivore.”
I was supposed to spend the next several years working side-by-side
with this bear monster thing from an unpronounceable planet, and the
first words she speaks to me are these.
“Excuse me?”
“Your teeth are flat,” she hissed. “Like a herbivore’s.”
I had been waiting in the tiered square outside the Hall of Harmony,
main office of the Galactic police force officially called the
Harmonizers, but which everyone really called the Predators.
Neelee-ornor is one of those planets that makes me a believer. Cities
crowd right into forests as thick as the Amazon, and both somehow thrive
with riotous abandon. It proves the Galactic creed really means
something. Something worth fighting for. Something that could get me
to take this thankless job.
So I waited to meet my partner, as I sat on a cool stone bench under a
huge branch dripping green saprophytes. The air was damp but smelled,
strangely, like California after the rain, when I would leave CalTech
and hike into the hills. I almost didn’t want her to show, so I could
sit and enjoy it.
I really knew only three things about her. She had about two e-years
under her belt as a Predator. She was a Sussuratian, a race of fierce
bearlike carnivores evolved from predatory pack animals, only a century
ahead of humanity in entering Galactic Culture. And she was named
Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess.
God help me.
I rose awkwardly every time a Sussuratian passed, only to sit again
after it walked on. Finally I gave up, and then a moment later a
Sussuratian bounded out of the passing crowds, and addressed me with
this comment about my eating habits.
I sprung off the bench and bowed slightly. “I am Tarkos.” We were
talking Galactic. But my Galactic is pretty good, really. Better than
hers, I was betting. Her name, however, was a Sussuratian name, and in
that language a human larynx was hopeless. Well, here goes. “I am
honored to meet you Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess.”
She was about six feet long, with short dark fur that had black and
green and gold patterns in it reminiscent of a boa. She was a
quadraped, and walked on all fours, her claws clicking. Now she sat
back on her haunches and put her front hands together, threading the
seven claws on one hand through the seven on the other. The effect was
a Kodiak holding a bouquet of knives. Her four eyes — two large green
ones set below two small black ones — fixed on me.
“I am called Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess,” she said. (Continue Reading…)

EP331: Devour


By Ferrett Steinmetz
Read by Dave Thompson
Discuss on our forums.
An Escape Pod Original!
All stories by Ferrett Steinmetz
All stories read by Dave Thompson
Rated 15 and up for language, brief sexual imagery, brief violent imagery

Devour
By Ferrett Steinmetz

“I want some water,” Sergio says.  The bicycle chains clank as he strains to
put his feet on the floor.

Sergio designed his own restraints.  He had at least fifteen plumbers on his
payroll who could have installed the chains – but Sergio’s never trusted
anything he didn’t build with his own hands.  So he deep-drilled gear mounts
into our guest room’s floral wallpaper, leaving me to string greased roller
chains through the cast-iron curlicues of the canopy bed.

“You’re doing well, Bruce,” he lied, trying to smile – but his lips were
already desiccated, pulled too tight at the edges.  Not his lips at all.

I slowed him down; I had soft lawyer’s hands, more used to keyboards than
Allen wrenches.  Yet we both knew it would be the last time we could touch
each other.  So I asked for help I didn’t need, and he took my hands in his
to guide the chains through what he referred to as “the marionette mounts.”

(Continue Reading…)

EP330: The Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived


By Keffy R. M. Kehrli
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show.
All stories by Keffy R. M. Kehrli
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated 13 and up

The Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived
By Keffy R. M. Kehrli

I am Sara’s second body.

My first memory is of Sara’s resurrection in a room that smelled of cotton balls and hydrogen peroxide.

“That’s funny,” a man said.

The world felt raw, sore, and new. Under my back, my butt, my fingertips, I could feel every thread in the sheets beneath me. The blanket over my stomach scratched. Padded straps crossed my arms.

“What’s funny?” This voice was a woman’s.

“Got another error message,” the man answered. “Have you ever seen that one before?”

I felt the sheets with Sara’s fingers, and the texture conjured memories I didn’t have. I should have known where I was and what I was there for, but I couldn’t catch hold of the fleeting thoughts. In the dim light of the room I could only see the ceiling.

“Let me see.” I heard a frenzied clicking. “It failed twice?” (Continue Reading…)

EP328: Surviving the eBookalypse


By Randy Henderson
Read by Roberto Suarez
Discuss on our forums.
An Escape Pod Original!
All stories by Randy Henderson
All stories read by Roberto Suarez
Rated 13-and-up for language.

Surviving the eBookalypse
by Randy Henderson

I entered the City Public Library wearing my plastic replica chainmail and sword, and my suede “book jacket” with a laminated author’s license clipped to the collar.

Before me stood a fully automated checkout kiosk for scheduling author recitals. The library floor beyond that was filled with neat rows of author cubicles, each with a desk and chair. Most were occupied. The air was filled with the soft tickity-ticking of keyboards, and the smells of coffee, “New Book” scented air fresheners, and Cup o’ Soup. Heads popped up over cubicle walls in response to the clacking of the door, then disappeared again when they saw I was no customer or potential patron.

I understood their disappointed expressions too well. This was not at all where I thought I would be two years after publishing my first e-book.

A woman’s smile caught my attention. It was like cherry-haloed sunshine, floating between her neon blue hair and her black lace dress. She emerged from a cube in the Romance section, walked up to me, leaned in close and sniffed at the air. Then she said with the hint of a Mexican accent, “I smell a transfer from Bainbridge library, no? An MFA boy, if I’m not mistaken?”

“That obvious?” I asked.

“Lucky guess.” She laughed, and flicked my author’s license. “Says so right here.” (Continue Reading…)

EP325: Bad Dogs Escape


By James Patrick Kelly
Cast:

Discuss on our forums.
An Escape Pod Original!
All stories by James Patrick Kelly
All stories read by AB Kovacs, Pamela L. Quevillon, John Cmar

Appropriate for older teens and up due to erotic imagery and war criminal comeuppance.

Bad Dogs Escape
By James Patrick Kelly

/SFX/ CLOCK TICKING, FADE TO

/SFX/ DOGS BARKING IN DISTANCE

SAM: Like?

BECCA: Like.

SAM: (growls like a dog, sexy)

BECCA: Like?

SAM: Like.

/SFX/ DOGS BARKING IN DISTANCE

BECCA: Lick?

SAM: (giggles) Like.

BECCA: (howls like a dog)

/SFX/ DOGS BARKING CLOSER

SAM: They’re busy today.

BECCA: Man’s best friend.

(SAM and BECCA laugh)

MEL: (in distance) Help!

SAM: Uh-oh.

BECCA: Company.
(Continue Reading…)